Wednesday 18 May 2022
Double Act: Judo Brothers go for gold in Birmingham
Commonwealth Games Australia has selected 11 of Australia's best judokas to represent the green and gold at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games with judo returning to the Games after last appearing in Glasgow in 2014.
The Katz family name is synonymous with success in judo and at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games brothers Nathan and Josh Katz are looking to add two gold medals to their family’s legacy.
The pair add their names to the long list of siblings and family members who have represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games. They join Katharina Häecker and Jake Bensted who will make history, becoming the only Australian judokas to compete at two Commonwealth Games in a highly motivated and diverse squad of 12 selected by Judo Australia.
The Katz brothers, who moved to Melbourne earlier this year to prepare for the Games, grew up in Sydney dreaming of winning gold medals.
Their mother, Kerrye Katz, competed for Australia when women’s judo was a demonstration sport at the Seoul 1988 Olympics, coached by their father, Rob. Rob continues to coach his sons, who became the first brothers to represent Australia in judo at the same Olympics, at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Younger brother Joshua said Games selection takes him and his brother one step closer to realising their childhood dream.
“The goal is to win two gold medals for Australia on the same day of the Commonwealth Games,” he said.
“Unlike Nathan, I failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. The setback provided me with a huge motivating force to push forward into the next cycle and I’ve been able to bounce back in 2022 with the best run of international results of my career.”
While there are 10 Commonwealth Games debutants in the squad, Katharina Häecker is excited about the opportunity to represent Australia again.
Born in Hamburg, Germany, Häecker moved to Melbourne permanently last year to further her preparation for Birmingham and now will take on the Commonwealth's best women's 63kg judokas.
“It is incredible to be heading to my second Commonwealth Games, and it is an honour to make history with Jake today,” Häecker said.
“I’m proud of my German and Australian heritage, but Australia believed in me and gave me the chance become the athlete that I am today.
“I’m extremely grateful for that and wouldn’t want to represent any other country.”
“Judo has grown so much in Australia since the Glasgow 2014 Games, and I am excited to be a part of this excellent team who are going to Birmingham.
“I know all of Australia will be supporting us, and I hope we can inspire the next generation of Judokas to keep working hard towards their goals.”
Jake Bensted, from Geelong, was a bronze medallist at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and is looking forward to representing his nation again eight years on.
"Winning bronze at the Glasgow 2014 Games was the highlights of my career so far, so I am excited for this opportunity to represent Australia again," Bensted said.
“To join Katharina as a two-time Australian judo representative is a pretty cool achievement, and something I am incredibly proud of.
“I am excited to be a part of our 12 judokas squad. We are motivating each other every day to improve and I can’t wait to join the whole Australian Team in Birmingham.”
Joining Häecker in the women’s squad is Victorian Aoife Coughlan, whose brother Eoin competed at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics. Coughlan, from Traralgon, has a younger sister, Maeve, who is also part of the national team but was unavailable for Games selection due to injury.
Tinka Easton, 25, from Berry on the New South Wales South Coast, and Abigail Paduch, 22, from the Illawarra region of NSW, round out the Australian women’s judo team.
Joining Bensted in the men's squad is Kayhan Ozcicek-Takagi, who was born in Sydney but grew up in Japan, will compete in his first Commonwealth Games for Australia after taking out citizenship.
Serbian-born Uros Nikolic was a silver medallist for Australia at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas in 2017 and is aiming to better that result as an adult.
Harrison Cassar, from Dromana, is an animal lover and movie buff and one of the 10 judo selections making their Commonwealth Games debut. Cassar’s fellow Victorian, Liam Park round out the Australian contingent.
Australian judokas have enjoyed a stellar start to the 2022 season with Josh Katz joining Häecker, Coughlan, Ozcicek-Takagi and Easton in winning bronze in the mixed team event at the PanAmerican-Oceania championships in Lima, Peru.
Australian Commonwealth Games Chef de Mission Petria Thomas OAM was thrilled to welcome the 12 judokas to the growing team bound for Birmingham.
“It is wonderful to welcome the selected judokas to the Commonwealth Games team for Birmingham,” Thomas said.
“Our Judo Australia stars have had an incredible start to 2022 winning medals at world judo events, most recently bringing home the bronze in the mixed team event in Peru.
“Congratulations to Tinka, Katharina, Aoife, Abigail, Joshua, Nathan, Jake, Uros, Harrison, Sebastian, Kayhan and Liam on making the Australian Team. It is a great day for them, their families, friends and supporters.
“I know all of our judokas will all be working hard towards the Commonwealth Games and ready to be bold, brave and brilliant in Birmingham.”
Judo Australia CEO Emma Taylor shared her congratulations to the selected Team Members and said she knows they will compete with pride and passion in Birmingham.
"Congratulations to our judo athletes selected to represent Australia at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games," Taylor said.
"These athletes embody the values of our sport and they carry the Australian flag with pride.
"Their commitment to the sport, their clubs and coaches is recognised in this selection and we know they will make us proud."
Combat Institute of Australia CEO Alex Vallentine was thrilled for the judokas and endorsed Taylor’s sentiments.
“It’s amazing to now have these 12 judokas named to the Australian team for Birmingham," Vallentine said.
"Judo Australia has nominated an exciting group filled with potential and talent and we look forward to Judo returning to the Commonwealth Games for the first time since Glasgow 2014.”
“These judokas are the latest #TeamCombat athletes named to the Australian team, joining our boxers in the green and gold, and with our Wrestling team to also be named in the weeks ahead.”
Australian Judo Team – Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games:
Aofie Coughlan - Women's 70kg - Debut - Reservoir, VIC
Tinka Easton - Women's 52kg - Debut - Maribyrnong, VIC
Katharina Häecker - Women's 63k - 2nd Games (2014 - 4th: 63kg) - Kingsville, VIC
Abigail Paduch - Women's Over 78kg - Debut - East Hills, NSW
Jake Bensted - Men's 73kg - 2nd Games (2014 - Bronze: 73kg) - Geelong, VIC
Harrison Cassar - Men's 90kg - Debut - Dromana, VIC
Josh Katz - Men's 60kg - Debut - Northmead, NSW
Nathan Katz - Men's 66kg - Debut - Northmead, NSW
Uros Nikolic - Men's 81kg - Debut - Edmondson Park, NSW
Kayhan Ozcicek-Takagi - Men's 100kg - Debut - Tokyo, Japan
Liam Park - Men's Over 100kg - Debut - Ascot Vale, VIC
Judo has been included on the Commonwealth Games sport program on three previous occasions: Auckland 1990, Manchester 2002 and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. The origins of the sport come from Japan, where the literal translation of the word ‘judo’ is ‘gentle way’.
England has dominated the judo competition at the Commonwealth Games winning 42 total medals, including 28 gold, with Australia winning 18 total medals, two of those gold.
Maria Pelki won gold in the women's 57kg division at the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games, with Tom Hill winning Australia's only other judo gold medal, when he won the men's 73kg division at the same Games.
Commonwealth Games judo medals summary by nation:
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held from Thursday 28 July to Monday 8 August with the judo competitions held from Monday 1 through Wednesday 3 August at Coventry Arena.
Written by Ren Thompson, Commonwealth Games Australia Digital Communications Coordinator